Today is Halloween and the Christmas stuff is already pushing the Thanksgiving Day stuff off the shelves at the stores. It is no wonder that we area so stressed and hurried at the holidays that we can no longer enjoy them individually as they should be. I guarantee you that the New Year’s celebration stuff will be on the shelves of every store before December 1. I wish the holidays would learn to stay in their own month.
In a time when money is tight and we are so busy on a regular day dealing with jobs and kids schedules, the holiday hubbub becomes very taxing on ones patients and pocketbook. You have to decide who is getting what and where you are celebrating. Does Company need to stay at a hotel nearby or do we have enough room? It can really be tedious.
Money is always a worry at the holidays. We all over spend believing that it is necessary to keep everyone happy. Then you spend the next 11 months trying to pay off all that holiday debt which makes the rest of the year hard. On top of which half the things you get for people or from people gets ignored or eventually given away to someone else.
Last January I decided that I would not let that happen to me again this year. I would not “rob Peter to pay Paul” so to speak so that I could make a good Christmas. I was tired of always feeling like I wish I had done more. I made a conscious effort to get all my bills paid off and paid ahead so that this holiday season would be less stressful, financially anyway. Here is how I did it.
I sat down with all my bills that I am responsible for in my household and I tallied up what I owe every month (not including gas and groceries). Then I tallied up what I make every month. It slapped me in the face that I could actually pay December and November’s bills all throughout the year if I spread out the sum over the course of the other ten months. How awesome is that? Here is how I did it.
I created three separate “money buckets”. The first one I labeled bills. I began manually writing out my bills every week on Friday. I made three columns; the bill name, how much is due and when it is due. I realized that I was spending a lot of extra money of things we didn’t really need. I was also spending a lot of late fees because of my poor money management over the holidays.
I poured over each bill with diligence to see where I could cut corners. I had bundled cable, which means that my digital cable, phone and internet come on the same bill. I had a three cell phone family plan with all the goodies. Utilities, well you can’t cut anything there, but you can do budget billing for some of them. You pay the average of twelve months bills so the bill is level. I do that already.
I decided to get rid of the digital cable and the house phone and texting. That saved me almost $100 off my cable and cell phone bills combined. Having the internet at home is more convenient than trying to fit going to the library in amongst everything else on my plate, so I opted to keep it.
This left more money to catch up the past due bills and begin to pay them in advance. Now that my budget is more manageable I set my “bills” bucket up. I subtract what I am paying out from what I am paid. The bills that are not paid that week are rewritten into the next Friday’s list.
The money that is left over goes into the second bucket labeled groceries/ gas. I know how much driving I have to do every week and how much gas it takes to do all that driving. I made a conscious effort to consolidate my trips away from home to conserve gas.
I also realized by going over what I spend on groceries versus what we have left over at the end of the week that I was actually over buying things. I was stockpiling everything for no apparent reason. I took inventory of my pantry, fridge, freezer and all my toiletries and household stuff. I found that I really didn’t need to buy anything for a while except for consumables (bread, milk and perishables). After that, I only bought what we needed for the week and maybe a couple of extras, cutting the grocery budget by at least thirty percent.
Now for the “what’s left” bucket, the money left over from bills, groceries and gas is money for me, right? Sort of, to make this budget plan function properly the goal is to try not to spend the money in the “what’s left” bucket. I give my youngest daughter her allowance and lunch money and I try to save as much as possible.
So far,because of all the extra money I saved myself by cutting back and getting rid of things we don’t need(and consequently don’t miss), I have been in the black every month, even if it was only a few dollars sometimes. I am happy to announce that I am on task with my holiday budget plan. This will be a happy holiday indeed.